Examining Mexico’s Water Reserves Program as an Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Instrument


WWF-Mexico, AGWA


CONAGUA; Inter-American Development Bank; UNESCO-IHP

Problem Statement

This project is designed to to assess the role of water reserves in assisting natural and human systems as they adapt to climate change and to understand the role of water reserves as an adaptation tool for CONAGUA.

Case Study

About 10 years ago, CONAGUA and WWF developed the water reserves program as a mechanism to help communities and ecosystem adjust to climate impacts together. Based on an environmental flows (e-flows) framework, the water reserves allocate part of the water to maintain the ecosystem itself and to provide ongoing adaptation services.

AGWA’s project is designed to analyze the effects of climate change on e-flows as they relate to the CONAGUA-WWF water reserves program in Mexico. The objective is to assess the role of water reserves in assisting natural and human systems as they adapt to climate change and to understand the role of water reserves as an adaptation tool for CONAGUA.

This project will assess and quantify the adaptation benefits of this water reserves program using the EEDS approach to analyzing freshwater ecosystems and infrastructure. Simultaneously, it will implement risk analyses to identify critical thresholds for specified variables of interest to stakeholders.

EEDS is used to quantify the vulnerability of water management systems to climate variability under alternative decision scenarios. In this project, those scenarios represent alternative development pathways for river basins that either establish protections of environmental flows (at various water reservation levels) or fail to implement water reserves. System responses are assessed by stakeholder-defined performance indicators that represent critical features, services, or threats to the system. The approach follows a stepwise process and is intended to be iterative - results of initial analyses may inform the specification of new decision scenarios and/or performance indicators.

Key Concepts

Freshwater resources are essential for agriculture, energy, industry, fisheries, and drinking water, and we have traditionally managed these resources through long-lived infrastructure designed based on our analysis of past climate patterns. In many cases, we have managed water resources as if ecosystems — the ultimate source of water — did not matter. In a time of climate uncertainty, however, the past can no longer fully guide us, and we need to include ecosystems as part of our water management program — our natural infrastructure, assisting us as we adjust to ongoing climate impacts.

Key Outcomes & Lessons Learned

This project is still ongoing. Initial indications point to the water reserves as a valuable tool in combating drought and providing necessary water supplies to national protected areas.


E-flows, adaptation, freshwater ecosystems, vulnerability assessments, water reserves




CONAGUA, WWF-Mexico, water managers

About the Knowledge Platform

The Knowledge Platform is designed to promote and showcase an emerging set of approaches to water resources management that address climate change and other uncertainties -- increasing the use of "bottom-up approaches" through building capacity towards implementation, informing relevant parties, engaging in discussion, and creating new networks. This is an ongoing project of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) funded by the World Bank Group.

Contact AGWA

Alliance for Global Water Adaptation
7640 NW Hoodview Cir.
Corvallis, Oregon 97330